Review of ‘The Great Alone’

By Ashley Lessa

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Griffin
Image Credit: Goodreads

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, published by St.Marin’s Press, is an adrenaline-spiking novel that, while well-written and captivating, suffers from an overzealous plot.

It is 1974 and Lenora “Leni” Albright is 13 years old. She is moved around her whole life, the only child of her father, Ernt Allbright, a Vietnam POW home from the war, and her young mother, Cora Allbright. Ever since Ernt came back from the war, he has not been the same. Prone to violent outbursts and volatile behavior, he also has trouble holding down a job. Then, when his wartime friend leaves him a plot of land and a house in remote Kaneq, Alaska, he decides to move his family there to homestead.

However,  when the weather turns terrible Ernt’s anger flares up, and Alaska is full of bad weather. As Leni takes in the beauty of Alaska, grows up and falls in love (with both the land and with a boy), she must also contend with the dark and violent secrets of her family coming to light.

The Great Alone left me with mixed emotions. The overall plot is engaging and the descriptions of the Alaskan landscape are alluring if a bit repetitive. The characters are equally endearing and heartbreaking, but the characterization of many either felt overly stereotypical or too static. Leni was brave, witty and well-spoken, the most realistic and lovable character of the novel.

The plot, while increasingly unrealistic, is undoubtedly entertaining; it is a page-turner, filled with many high-stakes situations. Nevertheless, the pacing is confusing; it slow and even repetitive for much of it and then suddenly far too fast. Hannah keeps readers on the edge of their seats but tries to take on far too many plot points toward the latter half of the novel, leaving no room to develop the characters in a way that feels conclusive.

Overall The Great Alone was an enjoyable read, but it felt like it fell short of its full potential. With more attention to characterization and a more even pace, it would have felt more polished and believable. Despite its flaws, the beautiful descriptions of Alaska and the adrenaline rush of the novel make it worth a read. (★★★☆☆)

TW: Abuse, violence, rape, gore, PTSD

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Product Detail:

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

Page count: 576pp

Age Range: 18 & Over

ISBN: 978-1-2502-2953-3

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

List Price: $17.99


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